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Kashmir shuts down over arrests, governor Malik calls for calm

On the day much of the Valley remained under a shutdown, Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik asked citizens not to believe in rumours that are creating “an atmosphere of fear”.

india Updated: Feb 24, 2019 22:18 IST
Ashiq Hussain
Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel stand guards during restrictions in Downtown area of Srinagar on Sunday. (ANI)

On the day much of the Valley remained under a shutdown, Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik asked citizens not to believe in rumours that are creating “an atmosphere of fear”.

In a statement, Malik tried to allay apprehensions over the deployment of troops in the state where tension is building in the wake of the February 14 attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy by a suicide bomber in south Kashmir’s Pulwama that killed 40 security personnel.

Malik, the administrative head of the state that is under governor’s rule, added that the induction of para-military forces should be seen in the context of conducting the upcoming elections and the overall security situation.

“People should not believe in rumours, which are of extreme nature and circulating widely in some quarters. They should remain calm. These rumours are unnecessarily creating an atmosphere of fear in the minds of people, leading to stress and disruption to normal life. Rumours about curfews and other actions should not be believed,” the governor said.

Malik, who held a meeting of the state administrative council, said “some security-related actions” were being taken after the Pulwama attack. The statement said security concerns were much higher after the Pulwama incident, with the possibility of “terrorist organisations increasing their activities against candidates and voters on a much larger scale.”

“It is in this context that 100 companies of Central Forces are being inducted into the State at the moment. This is less than the actual additional forces required and more would be inducted in the coming weeks,” the statement said.

Malik’s appeal came on the day separatists called a strike against what they termed “arbitrary arrests” and warned against “tampering” with the Constitution’s Article 35-A, which gives special status to the state.

On Friday, Jammu and Kashmir police cracked down hard on separatist groups, especially the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), arresting its local chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz and 150 other activists, as the central government reinforced the strength of paramilitary forces.

On Saturday night, the crackdown continued against JeI, while a few office-bearers of another religious organisation, Jamiat Ahli Hadees (JAH), were detained in a raid in south Kashmir. JeI adherent and hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Ghulam Nabi Sumjhi, too, was detained. Muslim Conference president and moderate Hurriyat Conference leader Abdul Ghani Bhat was put under house arrest in Srinagar.

On Sunday, markets were deserted and shops closed. Traffic movement on Srinagar roads was hit. However, people rushed to shops selling medicines and essentials at several places to stock up items of daily use following apprehensions that the situation in the Valley could deteriorate further. Authorities imposed restrictions in parts of Srinagar to prevent large gatherings. A police official said steps were being taken to maintain peace.

The administration said it was rationing essentials as supply of petroleum and other products in the Kashmir Valley was low due to a blockade of the Srinagar-Jammu highway.

“As a precautionary measure, the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir has rationed petrol and diesel supply, so as to conserve whatever is available for emergency purposes. People of the state should not read anything more into this but see it only as an administrative measure in a shortage situation. On the medicine front also, the instructions to hospitals to increase availability of medicines is also to be seen in the context of shortage of supplies,” the governor’s statement said.

First Published: Feb 24, 2019 22:18 IST